Evangelism: Barriers to Reaching Cultural Christians, Matthew 23 Part 1

Evangelism: Barriers to Reaching Cultural Christians, Matthew 23 Part 1

During this period of history, I’m trying to follow the “breadcrumbs” of grace to know the Lord more, hear his voice more clearly, and obey him quicker, and delight in a growing affection for him.

Don’t want to waste this pandemic: So, I’m asking the question: What is the Lord Jesus saying to me and to us?

I’m trying real hard to slow down in working through Scripture with you and not live by a preaching calendar that we put together. Rather I want that calendar to be a tool rather than a rule. 

I’m slowing down so we I / we can perhaps hear the Lord by us not rushing by. 

Matthew 23 does not flow from Jesus’ desire to berate anyone. 

Matthew 23 comes from frustrated love as Jesus calls to people and offers them life while they resist him in preference for darkness. 

  • Matthew 23:37 (ESV) “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!
  • John 1:11-13 (ESV) He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

The spiritual leaders of Jesus’ day were drunk on their national/cultural identity.

These cats were set on making sure they sidled up to Rome to make sure they could preserve their national identity. 

They sold their trust in God to provide what they really needed in order to get political preservation from Rome. 

They became spiritual pragmatists to get to what they thought were God’s ends by their contrived means. 

These leaders were divided into the liberal camp of the Sadducees and the conservative camp of the Pharisees with the rest caught in the power struggle.

Another group, the scribes were a class of scholars who would teach, copy, and interpret the Jewish Law for the people. (Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Scribe,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1913.)

The Scribes were legal experts who knew the law so well yet they missed the point. They could turn a clear truth into an opportunity to nullify God’s word for the sake of tradition. 

Jesus would say of them, “you nullify the commandment for the sake of your tradition.” – Matthew 15:1-9

The zealots saw the spiritual leaders as compromisers who had robbed them of their national/cultural independence and identity and couldn’t wait to overthrow Rome with any means they could. 

The outliers, the Essenes, John the Baptist’s spiritual tribe, were those who would not be part of any of it. They held close to the text of Scripture, copied manuscripts to preserve the text of Scripture, and sought to be prophets who lived in a holy manner. 

It’s into this mash-up of theological/cultural Judaism that Jesus takes on flesh to invade the soon to fall dark kingdom with his eternal kingdom, and it is at the end of his earthly ministry of pounding away at darkness that he shouts Matthew 23 to the crowd so that they might hear. 

Because there is nothing new under the sun, human history does not create anything new, it just recycles old narratives and practices. Therefore, Jesus’ eternal word lands right where it needs for us today. 

I want to introduce Matthew 23 by asking the question we began with this morning: “What is the Lord Jesus saying to us?” and answer it from Scripture in prayerful hope that the Holy Spirit would give us ears to hear Matthew 23 as a prophetic word to cultural Christianity / nominal Christianity as we make it our aim to effectively bear witness to the good news of Jesus’ kingdom and salvation. 

1 Peter 4:12-19 (ESV) Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And

“If the righteous is scarcely saved,

what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

Let’s not be fooled. God may not be dealing with “lost” culture right now in our chaos as much as he is dealing with a nominal Christianity that has abjectly failed to be the salt and light of a robust Christianity. 

What do we see?

  1. Fiery trials (literally testing) should not surprise us as though difficulty is some strange thing. V. 12
    1. If this chaotic time is a surprise, we may have been like the steward who fell asleep and was not ready for his employer’s return. 
  2. The difficulty is to test us and show us God. V. 12
    1. Who is the tester? Who runs all of human history? Who was in charge of what got in and out of Job’s testing? 
    2. Will we come out like Job? It was a gracious thing the Lord allowed in Job’s life because Job got to see and know God intimately in the chaos and destruction.
      1. Job 42:5 (ESV) I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you;
  3. We are to rejoice when we suffer for righteousness’ sake. V. 13 
    1. We don’t walk around defeated and sulking. We rejoice!
  4. The end of the suffering is to reveal the glory of Jesus. V. 13
    1. God’s great end is always his glory! 
    2. These times in history are when a Christian’s worship is tested as real or surface.
  5. Make sure any suffering is not due to our sin. V. 15
    1. There is a place for self-examination here. 
      1. Is any suffering I’m going through because I’ve sinned?
  6. God’s judgment begins with his own people. V. 17
    1. Don’t foolishly think God is out to get the leftists, the commies, and the abortionists before he deals with a complacent people who have passively allowed and advocated for things as spiritual pragmatists before robustly trusting in God by being prophetic and taking God’s side. 
      1. How dare us be OK with “lesser of two evils”.
        1. We have a third option: Trust God and shout from the rooftops, “thus says the LORD!”
        2. We need to be Micaiah not Zedekiah (see 2 Chronicles 18).
    2. The weeds and the wheat.
    3. Good fruit and bad fruit. 

Application

  1. 2 Corinthians 13:5 (ESV) Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
    1. It is these times in history that we must examine ourselves. Don’t fail to do this. 
  2. Do we hold any tradition as a bible truth while ignoring bible truths?
    1. Are we sulking over perceived losses of unnecessary things or rejoicing in the glory of God as he moves to advance his rule. 
    2. Do you have eyes to see the kingdom coming in power?
  3. Luke 13:1-3…Am I blame shifting or dodging real issues because they are uncomfortable or delighting in sin disguised as freedom when what is needed is my own repentance?
  4. Is my private prayer and worship up to par with my public display that God’s glory is the end and my delight in his glory evident?
    1. When God’s glory is our end, we have a ground for sustained joy that is not constructed on faulty footing. 

How do we respond?

  1. Take a moment and address the Holy Spirit who is already speaking to you right now. 
  2. If you need to repent, take obedient steps right now. Hear and obey. 
  3. If you have not believed the good news, today is that day. Confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and that God raised Him from the grave and you will be saved. Now tell someone. 
  4. Worship in unity the risen Christ like it matters.
    1. If we will do these things we will be ready to see our culture through the lens of Matthew 23 and preach the good news to it effectively with Jesus’ prophetic aim and compassion. 

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